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20 Quotes on the Hardest Questions Christians Face

The following quotes caught my attention as I (Matt Smethurst) read Rebecca McLaughlin’s outstanding new book, Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion (Crossway, 2019) [TGC review | interview].


My secular friends are twice as likely to raise children who become Christians as I am to raise children who become nonreligious. And the kind of religious beliefs people hold today are not the kind that fit comfortably into the “Coexist” bumper sticker. In North America, partly thanks to immigrant believers, full-blooded Christianity is outcompeting theologically liberal faith. . . . The question for the next generation is not How soon will religion die out? but Christianity or Islam? (13, 14)

We need only open a newspaper to see that religious beliefs can cause harm. But to say that religion is bad for you is like saying, “Drugs are bad for you,” without distinguishing cocaine from life-saving medication. In general, religious participation appears to be good for your health and happiness. Turn this data on its head and the trend toward secularization in America is a public-health crisis. (21)

While Christianity held a monopoly on Western culture, Western culture never held a monopoly on Christianity. Indeed, calling Christianity “Western” is like calling literacy “Western.” . . . The idea that Christianity is a diversity-resistant, white Western religion of privilege is utterly irreconcilable with the New Testament. (34, 36)

Read the New Testament, and you will find that trying to marry biblical Christianity to white-centric nationalism is like trying to marry a cat to a mouse: one is designed to hunt the other, not mate with it. (44)

If you care about diversity, don’t dismiss Christianity: it is the most diverse, multiethnic, and multicultural movement in all of history. (45)

Disagreement is not evidence of disrespect. Indeed, I debate hardest with the people I respect the most, because I take their ideas seriously. But our society seems to be losing the art of debate within friendships, and we instead surround ourselves with people who think like us. . . . If our commitment to diversity is more than skin deep, we must cultivate deep friendships with smart people with whom we fundamentally disagree. (50)

While it might be possible to square some religions with each other, particularly those with multiple gods, Christianity is like a puzzle piece drawn from the wrong set: however hard we try to bend the edges, it won’t fit. (57)

At the cross, the most powerful man who ever lived submitted to the most brutal death ever died, to save the powerless. Christianity does not glorify violence. It humiliates it. (93)

Does religion cause violence? It certainly can. But millions of people are driven by their faith to love and serve others. And Christianity, in particular, has served as a fertilizer for democracy, a motivation for justice, and a mandate for healing. If we think the world would be less violent without it, we may need to check our facts. (94)

Belief in a rational Creator God provides the first and best foundation for the scientific enterprise. . . . Just as atheism cannot ground our ethical beliefs, so it cannot justify our science. (110, 112)

Ephesians 5 grounds our roles in marriage not on gendered psychology but on Christ-centered theology. . . . No one who uses the Bible’s teaching on marriage to justify chauvinism, abuse, or denigration of women has looked at Jesus. (141, 143)

I observed [while reading Acts] that, while the first Christians faced every kind of suffering, even being stoned to death, there was one struggle they did not face: loneliness. If we reduce Christian community to sexual relationships and the nuclear family, we are utterly failing to deliver on biblical ethics. (160)

We cannot read the Bible and not be offended—condemned even—unless we come as broken sinners. If we come like that, we are tenderly embraced. Indeed, while Jesus’s condemnation of sexual sin is terrifying, his consistent welcome of repentant sexual sinners is equally shocking. (166)

Modern Western society teaches me to prioritize discovering my authentic self, peeling back the onion layers of my identity and living out of what I find there at all costs. But from a Christian perspective, who I am in relation to God is my authentic self. I find myself not in the depths of my psychology but in the depths of his heart. And when he calls you or me “child,” “beloved,” “friend,” that’s who we are, and any other identity—male, female, father, mother, child, friend—flows out of that. (173)

At the resurrection, no one who has chosen Jesus over sexual fulfillment will have missed out. Compared with that relationship, human marriage will seem like a toy car next to a Tesla, or a kiss on an envelope versus a lover’s embrace. (174)

The New Testament argues against slavery the way Portia argues against Antonio’s death: by cutting the legs out from under it. Jesus inhabited the slave role. Paul calls himself a slave of Christ, loves a runaway slave as his very heart, and insists that slave and free are equal in Christ. With no room for superiority, exploitation, or coercion, but rather brotherhood and shared identity, the New Testament created a tectonic tension that would ultimately erupt in the abolition of slavery. (183)

How many generations of faithful black believers do there need to be in America before we stop associating Christianity with white slave-owners and start listening to the voices of black believers that echo down to us through the blood-stained centuries? (192)

The question we must always ask of suffering is this: What could possibly be worth it? Jesus’s flabbergasting claim is that he is. (200)

Suffering is not an embarrassment to the Christian faith. It is the thread with which Christ’s name is stitched into our lives. (205)

If Jesus is the Bread of Life, loss of Jesus means starving. If Jesus is the Light of the World, loss of Jesus means darkness. If Jesus is the Good Shepherd, loss of Jesus means wandering alone and lost. If Jesus is the resurrection and the life, loss of Jesus is eternal death. And if Jesus is the Lamb of God, sacrificed for our sins, loss of Jesus means paying that price for ourselves. (218–19)

In Jesus’s world, we find connective tissue between the truths of science and morality. We find a basis for saying that all human beings are created equal, and a deep call to love across diversity. We find a name for evil, and a means of forgiveness. We find a vision of love that is so much deeper than our current hearts can hold, and a true intimacy better than our weak bodies could ever experience. We find a diagnosis of human nature as shot through with sin and yet redeemable by grace. We find a call to care for the poor, oppressed, and lonely, a call springing from the heart of God himself and grounded in the hope that one day every tear will be wiped away, every stomach will be filled, and every outcast will be embraced. But we do not find glib answers or an easy road. Instead, we find a call to come and die. (222)

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